Wednesday, November 5, 2008

And You Thought My Monarch Stories Were Over

We tied the record high today with a temperature of 73°. No excuses for not finishing garden tasks, unless you're a procrastinator like I am. We've got one more day of this on tap for tomorrow before reality comes back to smack us in the face.

For the most part, things are done here, with the exception of planting some tulips I found in the garage that I'd forgotten about, gathering the Morning Glory seeds (which haven't dried out yet), and putting down extra mulch which I really don't want to do until it gets cold for good.

Our neighbor Tom has a 'Red Delicious' apple tree that bore larger apples than ours did this year, and this afternoon I saw some of our other neighbors in his yard gathering some of those, as well as some of the pears he also has. I walked over to chat with them and Tom got off his mower and joined us.

While we were chatting, something flew by and caught my eye.
When my eyes caught up with what it was that captured my attention, I just stood there with my mouth hanging open.

It couldn't be...

But it was. A Monarch. A female Monarch. Flying around like a summer day.

I watched until she settled in the apple tree. I kept saying over and over, "I can't believe it. I just can't believe it." Another late traveler? Or...could it be Little Miss Monarch?

There's no way of knowing, of course, but now I'm going to worry about this one. We know that some Monarchs hang around too long and don't make it south before the weather turns hostile. And this unseasonably warm weather we're having is playing games with all of us. It fosters the state of denial we're in about the coming winter. But we have warm homes to retreat to. Monarchs aren't so fortunate.

As the cooler evening air wafted in, I wondered if the apple tree was going to be the night stop for this Monarch as she attempts to make her way to Mexico. I will check on her in the morning. I'm not going to interfere with the natural course of things this time though. Win some, lose some, and I don't want to know.

There were other things to do before day's end, so I walked back over to our yard and continued trimming dead hosta foliage, then pulled out the brown zinnia plants and put them all in the compost bin. The bluebird house on the shagbark hickory tree needed cleaning out from the tree swallow's nest that was built there earlier in the summer.

When I opened it up, there was a group of yellow jackets that were in the process of taking over the abandoned nest and I quickly brushed them out (while wearing gloves). I got it all cleaned out and ready for the next residents, which I hope will be bluebirds next spring, and closed it back up.

Wait...what is that I see on the underneath side of the birdhouse?

Look at that! A Monarch chrysalis casing! The tree is a good 40 feet from any food source, which means the caterpillar had traveled from the nearest Asclepias, across two other mulched gardens, a grassy path, and a larger grassy area of the lawn, then up the tree to the bottom of the birdhouse.

It was certainly a very safe and protected location, but that it found the perfect spot there just left me shaking my head in amazement. One thing's for sure - there's no such thing as a boring day in nature.


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Kylee, have you ever tagged monarchs? If you could get some of those tags you could tell if your monarch is one you have raised. I hope this one gets out of town before the weather turns bad.

Those chrysalis are always fun to find. You never know where they will turn up.

Anonymous said...

Like you Kylee, I am utterly fascinated by butterflies. To see one in November is such a treat! I saw my first ever Buckeye butterfly at Inniswood Metro gardens the other day, and could not rest till I got a decent picture of it. It was determined to bask on the asphalt, but my picture taking kept making it fly away for a moment to collect itself. LOL

F Cameron said...

Kylee -- we've had a few Monarchs lately, too. Of course, we have up the welcome sign (Monarch Waystation). We've got a few more days of 70s so I'm optimistic that these Monarchs will be on their way south.

I guess the birdhouse chrysallis just goes to show that butterflies do use "butterfly houses" that we thought were just for looks! :-) That said...I guess they prefer the larger birdhouses instead of those cute little decorative ones.

Enjoying your blog so much.


TYRA Hallsénius Lindhe said...

I just think miss Monarch is so beautiful so I see it and enjoy it over and over again. / Tyra

Kylee Baumle said...

Lisa ~ I want to get some of the tagging stickers from next year. I don't know if you remember that I mentioned some time ago that my mom found a tagged Monarch a couple of years ago (it was dead, unfortunately). That's how we discovered Monarch Watch.

This chrysalis case is the farthest away from their food source that I've ever found one. I can just picture it making its way to that spot and that's just incredible!

Robin ~ Oh, you lucky, lucky YOU! I have yet to see a Buckeye out in the open. I saw one at Franklin Park Conservatory a couple of years ago and one at The Butterfly House in Whitehouse, but never here or in any natural garden.

Isn't Inniswood wonderful? I've been there twice and would love to go back again, with Romie in tow. He loves gardens that are designed like that.

Cameron ~ Thanks! With you being in NC and two zones warmer than we are here in northwest Ohio, I'd be more optimistic about a Monarch's chances at this late date. I just checked the apple tree and she's still there, but slowly opening and closing her wings. It's not quite 50 degrees here yet, but we'll make it into the 70s, then a cold front moves in tonight and we'll be much colder from here on out.

We, too, are a Monarch Waystation, so we cater to them. We are also located in a major migration corridor, so it's not unusual to see great flocks of them as they go south. We didn't manage to see that this year though. I hope this one makes tracks today!

Rose said...

Such beautiful Monarch photos, Kylee! How lucky you were to see her, but I do hope she makes it south safely before the cold sets in. It's raining here and the temps are going down as I write--no Monarchs left here.

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

Amazing! That's all I can say about nature... amazing! Your discovery of the casing proves that nature is far more tenacious than we realize oftentimes. Whether you sighted your Miss Monarch or another, you can't give up hope that it will survive and make its journey just fine. Why? Because a monarch caterpillar did already! About 100 miles south of us, An area in Monterey has monarchs that huddle in huge masses hanging from trees in freezing weather. They never go all the way to Mexico and opt instead to use each other for protection and warmth during the winter. Amazing!


Lythrum said...

I hope your Monarch makes her way on down safely, thanks for the pictures!

Kerri said...

Yes please, little one, I'd love an apple! Your picture of the little fella is so sweet :)
Wow, 70º and a Monarch! How lucky can you be?
I hope she makes it south in time.
That's quite amazing for a caterpillar to find its way to such a perfect spot. I hope you got your chores done without too many more distractions :) I have the same trouble. There's always something that makes me run for the camera! I'm still working on containers! We had a lovely day too.

Gail said...

I love your monarch stories...this is not your little Monarch, she was clever and well fed on oranges and flew south!

I have wondered why I can never find a crysalis near the host plants...I am not looking far enough away!

Have a good weekend Kylee.


Benjamin Vogt said...

Wow to the late monarch (that is WAY late) and wow to the cat's walk. Mine didn't gor more than 10-20 feet at most this year. Cool finds for you, though the first is disturbing. Yeah, it was 74 here Wednesday, and yesterday it was 38 with snow flurries and a 30mph north wind. FUN times in NE.

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